By Jim Hansen
A typical magnetic wand is just a magnet stuck to the end of a plastic stick. These are easily made by drilling a hole in the end of a short piece of PVC rod and forcing a magnet into the hole. The problem with this type of wand is they attract everything near them, so the one bolt in a jar that you want will come out with several others clinging to it. Also, the magnet can’t be turned off and the unwanted collateral objects have to be picked off one by one and returned to the jar.
With just a little effort, a cheap ball point pen can be converted into a much more useful magnetic wand.
Start with a ball point pen that can be taken apart. Most promotional pen points can be removed with a little determined rotary force. Remove the pen cartridge, but save the spring.
The pen cartridge is replaced by a similar length of 1/8” drill rod. I used a small blob of J-B Weld to make the spring retainer feature that is molded into the pen cartridge and to affix the magnet (a 1/16” by 1/16” Grade N52 magnet, available at www.kjmagnetics.com, No. D11-N52) to the end of the drill rod. This tiny magnet will pick up about a tenth of a pound.
I put the drill rod into my lathe and let it run at a very low speed for a couple hours until the J-B Weld started hardening up. This makes the “blob” into a nice round ball.
I let the J-B Weld harden overnight. It would be possible to use a fast hardening epoxy in place of the J-B Weld but it isn’t as machinable in case you need to change something.
Once the J-B Weld hardens it is a simple matter to reassemble the “new” pen cartridge into the pen, and there you have it – a pocket magnetic wand in the form of a ball point pen. With the pen extended the magnet will pick up a single bolt or washer out of a jar of them. Click the pen to retract, and it automatically releases the object.